The Billboard Music Awards were full of big performances, dynamic reunions, and it was also ground zero for K-Pop (thanks BTS)
The Billboard Music Awards were full of big performances, dynamic reunions, and it was also ground zero for K-Pop (thanks BTS.) Those things, though, you saw on TV. But what was happening in the audience inside the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas while cameras weren’t rolling?
Here are a few things you didn’t see on TV:
Before the show began, the crowd was told to “be silent” for the opening of the show when host Kelly Clarkson paid tribute to the victims at Santa Fe High School. Clarkson was emotional on screen, and more so off-screen. After her cold open when she was off the air, Clarkson wiped tears from her eyes and her knees buckled.
Janet Jackson may have won the Icon award, but K-Pop group BTS was easily the group the fans came to see. Before the show began, fans, many of them teen girls, chanted “BTS” while holding purple lamps. The BTS Army was, well, loud… really loud. The fans chanted during commercial breaks that didn’t even involve the group. When the group won top social artist, the screams were ear-piercing.
Many of over-the-hill Billboard attendees asked each other, “Who are these guys?” Just before BTS went on stage later in the show for their performance, the crowd loudly chanted “Army!” In fact, the fans were so loud that Clarkson’s intro and outro couldn’t be heard inside the arena —and she had a microphone (and earmuffs!).
Check out PEOPLE’s full Billboard Music Awards coverage to get the latest news on music’s big night.
When Jennifer Lopez performed her new song “Dinero,” DJ Khaled was seen throwing out what appeared to be $100 bills. Not surprisingly, the bills were actually fake. In place of Benjamin Franklin’s face was “JLo.”
During Shawn Mendes’ performance of “In My Blood,” he was early in his song when his eyes scanned the crowd and he broke out a big smile. Who was he looking at? Taylor Swift and Camila Cabello, both of whom were in their feet the entire song, even head-banging during the more raucous moments of the song.
Later, there was not a dry eye on the house when Mendes and Khalid sang “Youth” with the choir from Marjory Stoneman High School. Mendes and Khalid spent several minutes hugging the students after the show went to commercial break.
When the Billboard Awards surprised Swift with a video compilation after winning top selling album, the singer didn’t watch much of it — instead she took the moment to chat with fans gathered near the front of the stage.
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Frankie Grande definitely stood out on the red carpet with his sparkling jacket and equally sparkling silver studded hightops. The outfit, he said, was a gift from his sister, Ariana Grande. “She knows me well,” he said.
While the Kesha and Macklemore collaboration was stunning and flawless and appeared live… it wasn’t. The performance was actually taped on Saturday night outside the T-Mobile Arena. When the song aired at 7 p.m. local time, it was still light outside. When the duo taped their performance on Saturday, it was in the evening.
Teen rapper Danielle Bregoli a.k.a. Bhad Bhabie of “Gucci Flip Flops” fame was on hand. Although she didn’t perform, she spoke to reporters about her music. When her latest song Gucci Flip Flops hit the hot 100 charts last week, she became the youngest female artist since LeAnn Rimes to have three songs on the Hot 100 hits. “I don’t really know who that is,” she said. “I thought it was Busta Rhymes’ sister.”
Country star Luke Combs was seen walk-in through the crowd double-fisting whiskey and Coke cocktails. He then sat next to rapper Lil’ Pump. The Billboard Awards always bring strange seatmate combinations.
Music’s biggest names didn’t lack snacks through the three-hour show. During commercial breaks, servers at MGM Grand handed out chips, cookies and even the occasional cocktail to the artists.
The Billboard Music Awards were broadcast live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday, May 20 at 8pm ET / 5pm PT on NBC.